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The Golden Age of comic book movie flops: Part One

Updated on August 5, 2013

Comic books have certainly made an impression on the big screen. Movies like X-Men, Iron Man and The Avengers have successfully gained a growing audience of those who would never dream of picking up a comic book.

But just because some movies have gotten it right does not make the transition from page to screen an exact science. In fact, comic book movies get it wrong more than they do right. Directors make choices that make comic book fanatics hold their heads down in shame. It seems that they truly don’t respect the comic book itself, and don’t care enough to do the stories justice. As such, actors are often inexplicably cast as our favorite heroes and villains. Here is a look at some of Hollywood’s worst portrayals of comic book characters.

Halle Berry - Patience Phillips / Catwoman

Catwoman is one of those characters that deserves to be played by not only a beautiful woman, but one that can accurately capture her prowess. Catwoman is essentially neutral in all her battles, unless it benefits her. Sometimes she sides with Batman, other times she is against Batman. It is not easy to portray a character that does things with a selfish motive, yet is torn between doing the right thing and doing her own thing.

Halle Berry is unquestionably a beautiful woman, yet that does not mean she automatically makes a good Catwoman. Quite the opposite: she probably could not have destroyed the character any more than she did in the 2004 box office flop of the same name. Fans of the original Catwoman character can take some comfort in knowing that Berry was not portraying Selina Kyle, but another character (Patience Phillips) created in vein of Kyle. Fans still scratch their heads as to why the film was titled Catwoman if Berry was not portraying the character as she stands. One can only surmise that it gave the director, et al, leeway to make things as bad as possible without marring the name of the true Catwoman. If only they succeeded in that quest.

Some critics will point to Berry as a strong actor in a weak movie. Even Berry herself admitted the horrificness of this film when she accepted the Razzie for the movie (with her Oscar in hand). She blamed the studios for putting an actress of her caliber in a terrible movie. The problem is, she accepted the role and shredded any dignity Catwoman ever had. Berry’s motivation behind playing Catwoman seemed to be one worthy of Catwoman herself: in other words, purely selfish. Berry seemed more entranced by the idea of wearing the catsuit and prancing around than bringing the character to life. And that’s just wrong on so many levels. Between the unbelievability of the character and the inability to deliver those awful one-liners (ones that even James Bond would find cheesy), Berry failed miserably. The cats should have just let the character die in the beginning of the movie and found someone more worthy of the powers they brought.

Ben Affleck - Matthew Murdock / Daredevil

Ben Affleck is undoubtedly a rising star in Hollywood. His humble beginnings with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting demonstrated a true artist. His recent work on films like Argo proved to the world he has what it takes to live at the top.

Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock / Daredevil

With films like these on his résumé, it is easy to overlook the dark years of Ben Affleck. Or rather, they were so bad they were erased from the minds of fans and Hollywood. During this time, Affleck made some horrifying attempts at filmmaking and acting that so bad he was the butt of Hollywood’s jokes and probably the most unlikely actor to make a comeback. If you doubt me, I have one word from you: Gigli.

The complex character of Matt Murdock was one of Affleck’s attempts at acting in the dark years. His soon-to-be lovely wife, Jennifer Garner, couldn’t even tell him how bad it was because she was in a starring role as Elektra. The movie itself was so far removed from the comic books that it almost did not seem to be the same character, except that he was blinded by radioactive materials. Even the manner in which he was blinded changed. In the comics, he was trying to save an old man. In the movie, he was distraught over seeing his father caught up in mob activities. This non-hero action continues throughout the movie, including Affleck choosing to be intimate with Elektra over saving someone screaming for help.

Affleck and Garner may be one of Hollywood’s sweetheart couples today, but one would never know that from this movie. Affleck had zero chemistry with Garner, although she admittedly tried. If it was just an absence of chemistry between the two main characters, then Affleck may have not made this list. But his acting as a whole lacks talent. Even though the dialogue was poorly written, it was even more poorly delivered. The best thing that could be said about Affleck’s portrayal of Daredevil is that Affleck himself recognized the disappointing role and regrets the film as a whole.

Comic book Mary Jane Watson

Kirsten Dunst – Mary Jane Watson

I think it is safe to say that no other actor has received as much criticism for playing a role as Kirsten Dunst playing Mary Jane Watson (MJ) in Spider-man I, II & III. The criticism is well-deserved. I’ve never considered Kirsten Dunst a good actor to begin with. I enjoyed her in An Interview with a Vampire, but she was still a child, innocent and with reason to put out a good performance. After she grew up, ego took over and any acting abilities she possessed completely disappeared.

Kirsten Dunst as MJ

Shailene Woodley as MJ

What audiences are left with is a washed out version of the Peter Parker love-interest and popular comic book character. Dunst appears almost high in some scenes of the movies, with glassed-over eyes that can’t quite determine if they want to open or close. Her lines are ill-delivered, and her chemistry with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker is non-existent. In the comic books, MJ was a confident, strong character, yet Dunst portrays her as a victim of the world, vulnerable to a point that audiences cannot relate to her, let alone start to care. The problem with MJ on the big screen is deeper than Kirsten Dunst. The Amazing Spider-man 2 features a new MJ, played by Shailene Woodley. Let’s just say by the looks of her that she will probably make this list in 2014 after the movie is released. Dunst has also publically given her the seal of approval; that’s enough for us to know she isn’t worthy of the character.


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    • Angie Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Martin 

      5 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      It is exciting seeing the characters make it to the big screen, but then I hate being disappointed when it's done so poorly. I think it's very easy to get character casting right - and most of the time, using unknowns in the films is probably the answer! Jim Carrey was not good in his comic book character either, so we'll have to see how Jamie Foxx does next summer :)

    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      5 years ago from Hammond

      Pretty brutal. I definitely agree that they could try harder casting Mary Jane Watson in any version of Spiderman. But at the same time, it is just so exciting to see these characters make it to the big screen. As for Electro ... maybe another "In Living Color" alum ... Ever heard of Jim Carrey?

    • nuffsaidstan profile image


      5 years ago

      Hey great choices, the first two are spectacularly awful and your right Kirsten Dunst looks stoned ha ha

    • Angie Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Martin 

      5 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      I also enjoyed the first two Spider-man movies, but Dunst just about killed them for me. I really did believe she was high throughout the filming - the picture I posted is what she looked like in a lot of scenes. Woodley was in the movie The Descendants, which I've never seen. Her IMDB photo is so much different than the photos of her on the set that I thought it was two different people. My husband, after seeing Woodley, refuses to see The Amazing Spider-man 2 in 2014. He's mad about her and the rest of the cast. Paul Giamatti has been cast as The Rhino. He is a good actor, but seriously...The Rhino? He has nowhere close to the body type needed for the bulky villain. Even though I am against actors playing in more than one superhero movie, I would think Ron Perlman would have a much better body type and voice to play Rhino. Paul Giamatti belongs nowhere near a superhero movie. And Jamie Foxx as Electro? Give me a break.

      Back to topic at hand. I don't think I would be so hung up on MJ's looks in the movies if the acting was there. If I could feel MJ in the performance, then I would have totally ignored the fact that MJ wasn't truly on the screen. But it looks like 2014 is going to be another disappointment in the Spider-man series.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 

      5 years ago from The Garden State

      I loved Raimi's Spider-Man movies (well... the first two, anyway) but I never thought Kirsten Dunst was the right choice for Mary Jane Watson. She's a decent enough actress but she was too "girl next door" looking for Mary Jane, who's supposed to be an absolute knockout. (MJ eventually became a high fashion model in the comics!)

      This is my first look at Shailene Woodley (who??) but she doesn't "look" much like MJ either.

    • Angie Martin profile imageAUTHOR

      Angie Martin 

      5 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      I agree. If studios took more time to really search out actors that not only looked like the part, but could play the part then comic book movies would be more successful. The purpose of a comic book movie is to bring these characters to life, not destroy them and ruin their reputation.

    • jeremycarter profile image


      5 years ago

      i agree with all of these. i hate that studios cast popular actors instead of people who are right for the part. catwoman was laughable, and kirsten dunst is nowhere near MJ. she's not pretty enough to play her. Mary Jane is a model and actress and kirsten dunst is neither


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